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The Day I Forgave My Abusive Father

Written by Aryanto Wijaya, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia

I used to hate my father. In my eyes, he was a compulsive gambler, a hypocrite and someone not worthy of being a father.

On one occasion, he came home at the crack of dawn after a long night of gambling. He had lost 10 million rupiahs (SGD $1,039) that night. Sore and resentful, he took his anger out on my mother and I. Yelling, he kicked and punched the furniture in our house. Even my mother, who was cooking, was not spared. I watched helplessly as my father mocked and swore at her. He even tried to hit her.

I was sick of this treatment. Enraged, I approached him and slammed the kitchen door. I exploded in anger, shouting: “I don’t care about your gambling problems. It is your choice to gamble and your consequences to bear whether you win or lose. But can you at least not bring problems from outside into our house?”

He answered by attempting to punch me in the face. Dodging it, I ran outside as my father cursed and swore at me. I hated him so much. I did not want to acknowledge him as my father.

Not knowing where to go, I rode my bicycle aimlessly. I did not want to go back home—I knew my quarrel had made the situation at home very ugly. I decided to go to my home church, which was five minutes away. It was not a Sunday, and hence, there weren’t many people around. However, I still hoped I would meet a church friend there who could cheer me up.

I sat in church, daydreaming for hours. The scene of my outburst in the morning kept replaying in my mind. My heart felt as if it was being torn apart as I recalled all the unkind things my father had done to our family. It was not the first time he had gambled and vented his frustration on us. In fact, whenever he lost money gambling, he would hurt my mom, slapping and hitting her. It made me so sad that I could do nothing to stop it.

Fortunately, my friend came to church that day to retrieve his bicycle, which he had parked in the church garage. Seeing me in that state, he asked me what had happened. Sobbing, I tried to explain what had happened. My friend hugged me without saying a word.

That evening, I decided to go home. I hadn’t brought money or clothes out with me and I felt bad leaving my mother alone at home. When I got back, I learned that my father had gone out to gamble again.

 

Deciding to Forgive

As I lay in bed that night, I was hurt and angry. I began to question my self-identity as a Christian. I was reminded of my baptism in 2004, when I promised to follow Jesus with all my heart. Following Jesus meant extending forgiveness the same way God did. If God could forgive a sinner like me by sending Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, then did I have a right not to forgive other fellow sinners? Was I a true believer if I refused to forgive my own father?

Even as I prayed to God for a solution, the verses God impressed upon me were all about forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:12 had made it clear to me: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Jesus even told Peter to forgive 70 times seven times (Matthew 18:22).

To be honest, that verse sounded very clichéd to me. I felt like I had heard it many times, whether through Sunday School or sermons. Then I remembered Matthew 18:22, which talks about the core of the Christian faith—the receiving of forgiveness and the act of forgiving.

Reading that verse, I gave in. I couldn’t bear the burden of hating my father anymore, and I wanted to release all my pent-up hatred. That verse had clearly told me to forgive my father. However, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

In my desperation, I prayed: “God, please grant me the strength to forgive him.” God listened to my prayer. After praying, I calmed down and thought through the incident carefully.

I realized that it was partly my fault. I had allowed my anger to take over me and yelled at my father. Instead of being patient with him, I chose to fight fire with fire. I should have used water to extinguish the flame. That water was forgiveness, which would eventually dissolve the hatred in me.

Fearing that he was still upset at me, I texted my father, saying: “I apologize for what I did.” After apologizing, I felt so relieved and peaceful, I slept without any worries that night. The next day, I approached him and apologized again. Although I was initially disappointed that he didn’t say anything, I soon realized that I had nothing to worry about. I had already done what was right in God’s eyes.

Little did I know that apologizing to my father was the first step in setting myself free from the grudges and selfishness inside me. I came to believe that no matter who was in the wrong, I should apologize first. The act is important to me because when I apologize, I am humbling myself. Knowing that I had done what was pleasing to Him, I felt great joy. I also became certain that forgiveness would set me free from any hatred.

 

Forgiving My Father

It has been years since I forgave my father for the first time. In 2012, I went to a college outside my hometown and found a job in Jakarta. I no longer live under the same roof as him. Up till now, my father is still gambling.

I’ve learned that forgiveness might not change those who have hurt us or improve our condition. However, as we forgive others, we learn to be like Jesus. Forgiving him has helped me view the situation from another perspective—I don’t resent him anymore.

When Jesus was mocked and tortured on His way to Calvary, He didn’t curse or mock them in return. Instead, He prayed for them. It is written in Luke 23:34 that “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

I have started to pray that my father will one day know Jesus. As time progresses, I have talked to him bit by bit—something that seemed impossible in the past. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that forgiveness is just like a seed that we plant. If we take care to water and nurture it, it will grow and bear fruit one day. The seed of forgiveness bears fruits of peace and reconciliation.

I can learn to forgive only because God first forgave me for all my sins. Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are now reconciled with the Father and can have peace.

Just as the Father has forgiven us, will you follow His example? Will you let go of your pride and forgive those who have hurt you?

Even if you find it difficult to forgive now, it doesn’t mean you can never do so. Forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long process.

Let us remember the forgiveness that was first extended to us and forgive just as God has forgiven us, for He can grant us the strength to do so.

 

To Those Not Celebrating Father’s Day

I have nothing against Father’s Day. My family just never had the practice of celebrating it—along with other occasions like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

Maybe it was because my parents were not the sentimental sort. The most we did was to attend the big, extended-family dinners my uncles or aunties would throw for my grandfathers on both sides. But with my dad, we never did anything special. No fancy dinner, no expensive gifts, no warm and fuzzy family photo.

If anyone asked, we would just say, “Nah, it’s just a commercial gimmick.” After all, we didn’t need to wait for an occasion to have a nice dinner together; if we wanted to, we just had one. And the same applied to the giving of gifts. My dad gave us gifts whenever he felt like it. So birthdays were never much of a deal in my family, either. And we were all happy with the way things were.

Perhaps that was a blessing in disguise. I have hardly gotten emotional during Father’s Day in the past four years since my dad passed on suddenly after a massive stroke. Sure, the banners and electronic displays screaming “Father’s Day Lunch Promotion”, “Father’s Day Discount”, or “Father’s Day Gift Ideas” trigger memories of my dad, but they don’t choke me up with emotion. And I’m thankful for that. I miss my dad enough, so I don’t need another occasion to get me all weepy.

You may identify with my situation. Maybe your family just doesn’t have the practice of celebrating Father’s day, or you lost your dad some time ago. Perhaps your dad has been absent in your life, or is an abusive and irresponsible figure you want nothing to do with. Perhaps Father’s Day brings you more pain and frustration than any other day, and you cringe at the mere mention of it.

Whatever your reasons for not celebrating Father’s Day, here’s what I’d like to say: You’re not alone. I know, I know, it’s clichéd—but it’s true. And it’s not because there are other people out there who are in the same boat as you. No matter how similar our circumstances may be, each of them is unique. No one can fully empathize with what you’ve been through, even your own family members. But one person can and that’s all that matters.

Mourning over the loss of my beloved father brought me closer to God than ever before. I remember nights where I wished my dad were still around so I could tell him about all that had happened during the day. But I couldn’t, so I told it to God instead. And then there were other times I would find myself tearing over a memory of my dad triggered by something—a dream, a place, or an item—and I would end up pouring my feelings to God. Each time, God never failed to comfort me with the reminder that my dad was safe in His arms, in a much better place.

Over time, I realized that what my earthly father had shown me was a glimpse of how wonderful and good my heavenly Father is. My father’s generosity, his gentle disposition, and his protective nature—God was all these and more. Regardless of how our fathers have been or are like, let’s take comfort in the ever-abiding presence of our ultimate father, God Himself. He’s the father who will never leave, disappoint, or abandon us.

 

 

A Letter To The Man of Few Words

Written By Jasmine Koh


Dear Dad,

It is late October. I am seven and barely 90 centimeters tall. You seem like a giant to me. I reach out to hold you and my tiny hands are engulfed by your smooth and strong palms.

It is late October and I am 17 years old. I close the door behind me while uttering a muffled goodbye, not bothering to wish you a good day as I used to before. You say a quick goodbye, too, typing away on your desktop on a Monday morning, neither of us trying to bridge the distance created in the span of 3,650 days. I leave and return to the same flat on the seventh floor every day, as if my home was a hotel. Your nagging and your silence have tired me out.

It is late October and I am 19. I have just attended the funeral of two of my peers’ fathers. I don’t know if I am thinking too much, but I am afraid of your passing, too. Someday, when you go, I don’t know how different life will be. How different I will be. They say that we only remember the presence of someone when they are no longer around.

Every now and then, I rest my eyes on your silhouette. Sometimes from behind the desktop screen, sometimes when you take a breather at the sofa. Looking at the white hairs and the spots surfacing on your skin, it dawns on me that you are ageing.

In the time I spent pestering you to bring me to the playground, catching movies after classes, starting my new part-time job, and entering university, you have gotten old. You still leave your unwashed mug on the table, shout at mum when she doesn’t turn off the switches, and nag me for coming home too late. But you are my dad—and no nagging or silence can ever change that.

It took me a long time to see you for who you are: a figure of strength, tenderness and silence all in one man. It took me many more years to realize what truly mattered to you—how meals together and taking heed of your words meant so much to you. You have worked tirelessly to raise us up. Although a man of few words, you are a man of fatherly love.

Thank you, Dad. You remind me that imperfect beings like us can still love in big and small ways. I don’t always say I love you, or Thank you, but you have truly played a big part in making me the person I am today.

Happy Father’s Day.

A-Letter-To-the-Man-of-Few-Words-(4)

How I Came to Understand My Parents

Written By Lim Chien Chong

Chien Chong joined Singapore Youth For Christ (SYFC) full-time in 1998 after a six year teaching career in a local junior college. In 2005, he became SYFC’s National Director. He currently serves in the pulpit and bible class ministry in church as well as preaches, trains and teaches in different churches and youth groups locally. He has been married for 13 years and has two young lovely boys, Joshua (nine years old) and Elijah (six years old).

“It’s just not fair!”

“Why am I always compared with someone else? I’m different!”

As a boy growing into my teenage years, I never liked to be compared with others, and found myself making these remarks to my parents quite frequently. Back then, there were many times when I thought I was being placed at an unfair disadvantage, and constantly felt the need to measure up to the standards my parents had set for me.

When my elder brother and I were younger (and probably even now), I was the rougher and louder of the two. I did not understand why I always got toys that came apart more easily, why I was always the dirtier and messier one, and why I was often the subject of much nagging and scolding from my mother. It seemed like my parents were indirectly telling me to be more like my brother.

To add insult to injury, I was always the recipient of “hand-me-downs” from my brother. He always got to wear brand-new clothes while I had to wear his old clothes. To be fair to my parents, they did buy me things that I needed. But somehow, I remember less of what they bought me, and more of what they did not get for me.

The irony of it all was that while I kept telling my parents to stop comparing me with others, I was subconsciously comparing myself with my brother, and my parents with my friends’ parents.

Have you experienced this too?

When the tables turned

Today, I am a father of two boys. As you can imagine, I have been given a taste of my own medicine. Every time one of my boys goes, “Daddy, it’s not fair!” it feels like retribution. Over the years, God has constantly taught me in many interesting ways that He is a just and fair God.

But the good thing is, I understand perfectly well how my children feel—because it is exactly how I felt when I was at their age. Now, I find myself trying my best to remind them (even before they complain about unfairness) about what my wife and I have done and are continuing to do for them. Thankfully, they look like they understand what I’m saying, although I can’t say the same for myself when I was at their age.

And while I’ve seen the wisdom in the common advice—do a role reversal so that we can better understand things from the other person’s perspective and be more appreciative of others—I have generally found that difficult to apply and rather subjective.

A working ‘formula’

Thankfully, God does have a golden rule for family life and how parents and children ought to relate to each other.

Ephesians 6:1-4 teaches children to “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth”.

It also teaches parents (especially fathers) to “not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord”. In a parallel passage, Colossians 3:21, Paul further reminds parents to “provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged”.

As a Christian father, I try my best to please God. I’ve also come to learn that children can help us fathers to be more encouraging and nurturing. How this pans out for each family will differ.

In my family, I do appreciate good feedback from my children, especially when it is given with much love, sensitivity, respect and concern for me as their father and a fellow brother in Christ at the same time. This may sound a little strange, but that’s exactly how our relationships are described in the bible. Similarly, if my sons welcome feedback from me on how they can obey and honour me, I will gladly tell them how to (of course, as sensitively as possible).

Like in all families, however, our interactions and dynamics are complex. We do not always listen as attentively and speak as sensitively and respectfully as we should. Even when we try, we may still end up using words which offend the other party. Whether we recognize it or not, we desperately need the help of the Lord.

In any case, I have to pray for wisdom to be as nurturing and encouraging a father as possible, whether my children are supportive or not—and that, despite all the failures my boys may see in me, God will help them obey and honour their parents.

Today, I thank God for the opportunity to learn lessons on what it means to be a godly father. I am also grateful that I still have the opportunity to learn and live out what it means to be a godly son to my ageing parents. I realize that I need as much growing up to do as my boys.

The heart of Trinity

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:9-10)

It is evident that Jesus came because of His obedience to God, the Father. He is also the object of His Father’s love. With that understanding, playing my role well as a son to my father and father to my sons has a much deeper significance. My motivation is much greater than just trying to make my family work.

When I seek to be the father and son that God would like me to be, I am living out the principles that exist within the Triune Godhead. In addition, I catch a glimpse of the relationship that Jesus has with God, the Father.